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In present day Ngora district, formally Kumi, are the wonderful Nyero Rock Paintings. These Rock Paintings are one of their kind. They are the only known stone age rock paintings inscribed in red, white and purple pigments. They are located in a small village called Nyero near Kumi town in Eastern Uganda and are approximately 250Km from the capital, Kampala. They are one of the many ancient rock sites scattered all over Eastern Uganda. Others are; Kapir, Kakoro, Onyeri, Namiyingo rock site, Tororo Rock and Caves, Obwin and many more. Even in such an area with many rocks and caves, Nyero manages to stand out because of its historical and cultural significance to the country and Africa as a whole. Nyero Rock Paintings site was gazeted as a national monument in 1972.
Information about the authorship of these rock paintings that date back to the old stone age era is very scanty. There is still a big debate on the work, depiction and the authors of these prehistoric art paintings. Originally, they were believed to have been the work of the San/Bushmen of South Africa while the recent archaeological, genetic and ethnographical findings point to the ancestors of the Batwa people. They are probably the inhabitants and descendants of the ancient original groups that once inhabited the East and central Africa by virtue of the homogeneous tradition often depicted in the red pigment matching the description of the late stone age hunter-gatherer culture. The Batwa currently live in small groups near the Uganda/Rwanda border.
If not for the threats of erosion and other external geological factors that have seen these paintings slowly wearing away, the locals have tried and managed to preserve the place in its original state. The dorminant tribe in the area are the Itesot who also take the place as a sacred place for their gods whom they worship for good harvest, fertility for women and rain. For such and other reasons, they greatly treasure the place. Although the Itesot at times (erroneously) identify themselves with these paintings, history indicates no link between them and the Batwa Pygmies who are believed to have painted them. The Twa/Batwa were long gone by the time the Itesot and other Luo speaking people migrated to this area.
Significance of Nyero Rock Paintings:
- Nyero Rock Paintings are amazing art drawings in geometrical form on the rocks’ inner surfaces. It’s an interesting archaeological site availing a great platform for a deeper dive into the lives of our ancestors. They somehow help(partly) to interpret our past.
- These prehistoric art paintings give an insight into the stone age and the evolution of art and some cultural trends. On a sad note though, these painted images are turning to be difficult to distinguish as they are being gradually washed away by natural water erosion and some locals who try to imitate them with modern paintings through the original ones. The site guides are now more vigilant and put strict measures against such unbecoming and destructive act by some individuals.
- The rocks turn the site into one of the great hiking places in Eastern Uganda. The hike/walk up the rocks can be done with little or no difficulty at all and comes with great rewards like the views of the adjacent areas. Lizards, birds and some primates can be spotted in the area. Stories and tales of the ancient people together with those of the current inhabitants are shared by the knowledgeable site guides as you walk/hike through these rocks.
- The site offers a nice diversion and stop over for the tourism places/attractions of Eastern Uganda; the Sipi water falls, Mount Elgon National Park, Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve and Kidepo Valley National Park It is not every day that one gets a chance on a prehistorical site, and which is still(almost) in its original state. The site is well preserved, unspoilt and untampered with. It’s our hope that one may wish to check on such a prehistorical art site and it’s upon this that most of our tour itineraries are designed with some space for such off-the-beaten-track experiences. We would therefore be glad to know if you would wish to have Nyero Rock Paintings visit incorporated in any of our short or longer Uganda Safaris of your interest. Alternatively, we can arrange day trips to this site with departures from Mbale city, Soroti, Kapchorwa, Kumi and Ngora towns.
- Additionally, this stone age art site breaks the monotony of Gorillas, Chimpanzees and the game safaris description for which Uganda’s tourism is branded. It gives some proof that Uganda is a country of diverse tourism potential, some of which are even untapped. It�s a country of authentic cultural experiences besides the incredible mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees, the Savannah parks with the big5, the many birds, the amazing scenery, the beautiful weather, the majestic waterfalls and many others for which it is popular.